Potential position changes abound in the Lions secondary

·2 min read

The word “multiple” unfortunately sends shivers down the spine of Lions fans. Former head coach Matt Patricia often used the term to describe his defense, which progressively declined to the worst in the league.

But the basic concept of having versatile players who can perform in multiple different roles isn’t inherently bad. Detroit’s defense in 2022 has a lot of those guys, notably in the defensive backfield.

The Lions are testing the multiple positionalities of players in this week’s OTAs. One of them is Ifeatu Melifonwu. The second-year DB has been a cornerback for a long time, but in Thursday’s OTA session he took a bunch of reps at safety.

It’s a wrinkle that Melifonwu, who is safety-sized at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, is welcoming with open arms. He spoke after practice about the possible move to safety via Ben Raven of Mlive,

“The plan, AG (Glenn) and the coaches just asked me to try it. I’m a football player, so they kinda want to put me in different spots (and) see what works,” Melifonwu said. “If you got versatility and know the other position just in case anything happens.

“I like it. It’s a different perspective. Definitely a different perspective. You see the whole field instead of just one side of the formation. I’m still getting used to it. I like corner as well. It’s honestly two different things. I’m getting used to it.”

The Lions are thinner at safety than cornerback, so it makes sense to cross-train a young player with physical traits that translate to each spot. One of the reasons for the odd depth issue is because veteran Will Harris continues to get a lot of looks at cornerback.

Harris moved from safety to corner late in the 2021 campaign after a rash of injuries ravaged the CB room. He performed better at CB than he had at safety, where he’s just not worked out as hoped. Harris is in the mix at both outside and slot CB, as well as his old box safety role in coordinator Aaron Glenn’s split-safety base package.

When injured cornerback Jeff Okudah returns, he might also switch around multiple positions. With the depth strongest at outside CB, a move inside to the slot or even some dabbling as a coverage safety could be in the works for Okudah in his third season in Detroit, too.